Healthy eating for over-50s

Healthy eating can improve your quality of life and help you avoid diseases associated with ageing. There's a lot you can do to introduce healthier foods into your diet without giving up all of your favourites.

A change in your food requirements

A major reason for age-related weight gain is that the rate at which you burn calories in food and drink, known as your metabolic rate, slows down with age. The extra calories will turn into surplus body fat over time if you don't adjust your diet or exercise more.

How much should you eat?

Weight gain is all about how much energy you take in to your body and how much energy your body uses. To lose weight you need to take less energy (calories) into your body from food and drink than the amount your body uses up by being active. Remember that you’ll need fewer calories in your 50s and 60s than you did in your 30s.

How much you can eat without putting on weight is also linked to how much you exercise. Being active burns calories, so it can help you to lose weight.

Manage your weight with a balanced diet

You may have to reduce your calorie intake slightly and ensure that you keep active. It's not a good idea to follow fad diets. It can make it even harder to manage your weight over the long term.

To get the best from your diet:

  • eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day
  • base meals on starchy foods like bread, potatoes, rice or pasta
  • drink plenty of water and cut out fizzy, sugary drinks - watch out for hidden sugars added to many soft drinks
  • limit your consumption of food and drinks that are high in sugar, or in saturated fats - like butter
  • choose lower-fat meat, poultry and dairy foods
  • eat more fish – aim for two portions a week, including one portion of oily fish such as salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel, sardines or trout
  • drink less alcohol
  • limit your salt intake to a maximum of six grams a day – try not to add it to your food and beware of added salt in processed foods and ready-made meals
  • try not to skip meals, particularly breakfast
  • eat a variety of foods to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs

Links between diet, exercise and health

Increased activity is perhaps the key to weight control as you age. Eating a balanced diet, not overeating and eating the right foods is important.

Research shows, for example, a link between diet and many major diseases, like coronary heart disease and cancer. By walking regularly you cut your rate of physical decline by half.

Thirty minutes of moderate exercise five times a week is what the experts recommend. It can be all in one half-hour, or split into smaller bouts of activity throughout your day.

Remember, before changing your diet or starting an exercise regime, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor.

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